MSP warns of 'public health crisis' as Forth Valley drug death figures are released
The figures for suspected drug related deaths in the first half of 2021 do not make for good reading according to a Central Scotland Green Party MSP.
During the first six months of 2021 there were 36 suspected drug deaths in the Forth Valley police division, according to new figures published by the Scottish Government.
While this is down on the figures over the same period last year, when there were 42 suspected drug related deaths, MSP Gillian Mackay believes these fatalities could, and should, have been avoided and she praised Forth Valley police for their use of naloxone – a medicine that can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose.
She said: “These figures remind us of the devastating impact that drug-related deaths continue to have on communities and families in Scotland as a whole. Too many people who use drugs are still being failed by the Scottish and UK Governments.
"We need to stop criminalising and stigmatising people who use drugs and take a more compassionate approach which recognises their right to dignity and treatment. This is a public health crisis.
"Health is devolved to the Scottish Parliament and powers over drugs legislation should clearly also be devolved so we can abandon the failed war on drugs and focus on harm reduction.
"Forth Valley police have recently taken part in a trial which saw them trained to use naloxone. and we know that interventions such as these can save lives. We need to go further, however, and the new Lord Advocate should now use her authority to exempt lifesaving services such as safe drug consumption rooms from prosecution.
“The Minister for Drug Policy has said that work is underway on this issue and it is vital that meaningful progress is made.”
The Forth Valley area had 84 suspected drug related deaths over the course of 2020, while 2019 saw 78 drug related deaths and 2018 had 69.
Statistics show there were 722 suspected drug deaths across Scotland in the first half of 2021 and the Police Scotland divisions with the greatest number of suspected drug deaths for this period were Greater Glasgow (187), Lanarkshire (67), Edinburgh City (64) and Tayside (64).